Strauss salutes Watson
Andrew Strauss hailed Shane Watson’s match-winning hundred as “one of the great one-day innings” after Australia drew first blood in the Commonwealth Bank Series at the MCG.
In a match that marked the 40th anniversary of the first one-day international - at the same venue on January 5, 1971 - Watson’s unbeaten 161 underpinned a six-wicket win, completed with five balls to spare.
The opener’s innings, from 150 deliveries - featuring 12 fours and four sixes, was the fifth highest by an Australian in ODIs and saw the hosts eclipse England’s best score in an ODI Down Under.
Strauss earlier struck 63 and Kevin Pietersen 78, his first one-day international half-century in over two years, as the tourists were 294 all out with two balls unused.
Watson and Brad Haddin shared an opening stand of 110 to put Australia on course for victory and the England captain admitted his side’s total was shy of what was required today in Melbourne.
“Two hundred and ninety-odd is always a good score at the MCG but it was an outstanding effort from Watson, that was one of the great one-day innings,” he said.
“If we had taken early wickets we would have been right ahead of the game. They needed someone to anchor it and Shane Watson did that brilliantly.
“We had a platform to get 310, 320 maybe and KP getting out in the first over of the powerplay didn’t help us. We lost too many wickets too softly and that is something you’ve got to look at.
“Kevin has struggled a little bit in one-day cricket but hopefully there is more to come from him in this tournament and in the World Cup as well. The defeat is hard to swallow, but we’ll come back stronger in Hobart.”
Watson offered only one opportunity during his knock, on 44, when Jonathan Trott spilled a difficult chance running backwards from mid-off.
However, Strauss did not point the finger at Trott for England's inability to defend what was a record chase at the MCG, instead blaming a combination of mistakes.
"We didn't strike with the new ball, the spinners bowled well but we weren't able to squeeze as many wickets as we would have liked," he added.
"We had a couple of half-chances that might have gone to hand on a different night, but you can't take anything away from Watson. He deserved to be on the winning side.
"For us it's just a case of doing little things a bit better than we did today. You can't afford to make too many little mistakes in one-day cricket and we probably did that. There are things for us to work on but ultimately it was a great game of cricket."
England chose not to include the out-of-form Paul Collingwood today due to his poor tour with the bat.
Strauss confirmed the 34-year-old had been omitted based on his barren recent return, but hinted that he would still be a part of the 15-man World Cup squad to be announced on Wednesday.
"We feel that he's been struggling with the bat for a while now and the best way for him to come back is to spend a little bit of time out of the side and refresh his mind," he said.
"We'd like him to spend the next week or so clearing his mind; doing some work in the nets, but primarily clearing his mind and thinking how he wants to play his game.
"He is still a very important part of our one-day set-up and will be going forward into the World Cup.
“We have a lot of batsmen in great nick at the moment. It's tough on him but it would have been tough on someone else to miss out."
In Collingwood's absence, Pietersen was given his chance back in the 50-over team after being dropped for the previous series against Pakistan in September. He responded with his first half-century in 17 ODI innings.
"He showed his quality today," Strauss observed. "He is able to clear the boundary, he kept putting pressure on the opposition bowlers. He's had a bit of a fallow period in one-day cricket but he showed his worth today."
However, Strauss refused to bemoan their absence despite his side failing to limit Australia with wickets or attrition.
“When you’re losing the likes of Anderson and Broad, our two bankers in one-day cricket, you’re putting a lot of onus on the guys coming in,” he added.
“I think they did a good job but they were met by an outstanding batsman, who played a great innings.”